Movies, stories, and even comics have always portrayed Amazons as robust women warriors, a tribe descended from the gods to protect from evil. But that is all drivel; well most of it. They are descendants from the gods, and they are strong, well most of them. Some possess a power – the women. They can knock over a full-grown man with a single stare. That’s where the similarities stop. Maybe the power women possess is where the myth came from for all myths are based on some kernel of truth. In reality, we don’t know a lot about the Amazons as they are just now awakening. But you must wrap your mind around two facts…they are small but mighty, and there are males too. They have a passion for nature, are a force not to be reckoned with, and severely introverted.
Our tribe includes Dale – name to be determined later (Papazon doesn’t work considering he named me Momason, and we already fight the inbreeding image), Momazon, Hamazon, Camazon, Babyzon and soon Bubbazon (possibly his bride – we don’t know yet). The younger women are petite but mighty. Since the Amazon in me was woken well into my 40s, I didn’t get to keep the slender figure I had as a youth and that the others have. Bubbazon-in-training is tall and lean. Again, had Dale been woken in his youth, he would fit the model. (Lesson – wake before middle age when our bodies transition.) The youth have an ability to leap tall mountains, but the middle aged grow deep roots that keep us close to the ground. So while they can cruse up the mountains in a flash, we must grow up them slowly convincing our roots to allow us some movement. But this movement is beginning to allow us to grain our mobility and youthfulness. Without the movement, we would eventually turn into Ents. It takes hiking 50 miles with the tribe elder to fully wake.
But to get on with the story, I distinctly remember trying to hack up a lung after a two mile stroll around a park in Reno while Dale was just slightly out of breath. That led us to hike around Spooner Lake with Bubbazon-in-training, another two mile hike. We did much better that time. Now we were hooked.
Somewhere that summer, I read Wild and my desire to hike mountains I had driven past many times resurfaced. I started thinking that someday, I too would take on a backpacking trip. Moments later, I thought that if I was going to move this from a pipedream to a goal and eventually to a reality (unlike my biking dream (I sold the bike)); I had to pick a completion date, choose a trail, and start training. So I decided that in five years I was going to hike from Mt Hood to the Columbian Gorge – The Bridge of the Gods, our gods. My training was to hike once a month with Dale, walk all the 5ks in Fallon, and to work out as often as possible. I have 5 acres I maintain mostly myself, so working out wasn’t too difficult. Each hike with Dale got longer and more challenging leading us to taking Tahoe Rim Challenges. We improved quickly. Now we know it is the amazon waking in us, but then we just thought it was because we had a goal. Kind of like a dog and his pull toy; we couldn’t let go.
We brought along others on our hikes. Now we were a group. Hamazon hiked our speed until we turned towards our cars, then she’s off disappearing into the trees. She also has an ability to talk to bears. Apparently when asked nicely – “Go away bears” – they listen. Babyzon has the ability to eat while hiking and not trip over her feet and making grown men fear for their lives when she becomes hangry. She can also make carrying backpacks look easy as she nonchalantly hikes uphill with her hands in her pockets never breaking a sweat. She also has a penchant for rabbit holes. Camazon loves hiking in the rain and uphill. It’s not a good hike if she doesn’t get wet and there are no hills. When she comes home, she thinks my hikes are lame. I just remind her I was well on my way to becoming an Ent when I started hiking. Camazon’s directional abilities flourish on the trail.
After the first year, we decided to move the hike to the next year. We trained more. And the more we talked about it, the more our group grew – until we actually went. At one time, we had ten people interested. But when the time came, the Amazons were separated from the humans who were only dreaming. We had a tribe. And as all tribes, it is growing and changing.
I studied many blogs about the trail we were going to take not knowing the nature of true backpackers. I believed much of what they had to say. After all, they pretty much agreed with each other. I had a pretty picture in my head of what the trail was going to be like. To help that along, I had images of the hills we flew over and just knew it was going to be a walk in the park. It was beautiful, but not what I imagined. No rolling hills with big meadows. I understood that we were going to have plenty of water and time left over each day to explore. I talked it up to everyone. But that was very different from what we experienced.
The first shock was lifting our 40lb packs and realizing we were going to have to wear them for 4-5 days. Then out on the trail we had to go up hill to get down hill. The fact that the Pacific Crest Trail has “crest” in the name for a reason completely went past me. I never considered what would lie between the mountain and the river. The blogs said there would be plenty of water and camping spots – there was no mention of climbing sheer drop offs. The ranger on the phone told me about three river crossings but not about all the downed trees we’d have to get around. The forestry guy named Barry talked about the beauty and wild life not the reality. This should have been our first clue about the nature of backpackers, but it wouldn’t be until day three that we really understood.
After a hearty breakfast thanks to the Timberline Lodge and a bit of souvenir shopping, we donned our packs, said goodbye to Clarissa, and turned uphill. Within the first 50 feet, we were separated into two groups – the youthful bounders and the middle aged rooted. It didn’t’ take long for my knee to tell me that it didn’t like the extra load either. Not even up the first hill, I had to stop and put on the knee brace. No matter how heavy we felt, our spirits were light. We laughed at so much, we talked excitedly, and we sang or hummed as we followed the yellow brick road. We planned an easy start day. We were in for some quick lessons. The trail was well maintained at first, far enough for us to keep from turning back at the first bit of hardship. We went up and we went down. Then we crossed our first water and had to climb out of the riverbed. And up we went. Again we didn’t really get what Barry was doing when he told us that after this it was easy going. Then we started crossing little water spots and downed trees. At first it wasn’t too bad, but by trees seven and eight, I was done. Not done done, but done with downed trees. These two were the hardest by far, and together. My roots kept me from climbing over, and I didn’t want to succumb to the ground going under. I feared I may not get up again. So, we were forced to go around. The drop off was quite steep but manageable, until we tried to go up on the other side. There were no real places to put our feet – the soil was very loose. We had weight on our backs pulling us downward, and there wasn’t any more than broken branches to grab hold of. The youth were able to climb up no problem (of course). They dropped their loads on the other side and helped me up. I got part way up and dropped my pack to help my knee. I couldn’t lift myself of that knee and I couldn’t get the other leg up any higher. So there I was pushing and pulling my pack as I took great steps to get up and under tree nine. Dale followed, as was his way, making it look easy. He had a habit of letting us go first, looking gallant: I thought. But really, he was learning from our combined methods and finding the easiest way. His power is in reasoning and problem solving. He saw where my difficulty lay and went around it never needing to drop his pack.
We stopped for lunch at a beautiful over look with logs to sit on and clearings for several scattered tents. I wanted to stop there being tired already, but it was too early in the day. We continued on crossing eight water ways mostly puddles not once thinking of refilling our water bags and eighteen downed trees before we stopped for the night. Evening came early in the mountains; we needed to find a camping spot. As the light dimmed the sounds amplified. There was a great whooomping that we couldn’t place. Not one of us could remember hearing it before. At the spot we finally found that was big enough for four tents, we had to each perch on the slope to fit into the clearing, but we set up camp and broke out our dehydrated meals. This was the best meal ever, but we had to ration our water because we were nearly out and had no idea how far before we found more. As we were playing our card game, I realized that the lunch spot was the best camping spot we saw all day. I began to wonder about the ease of finding places to pitch our tents along the way and finding water. Then while brushing our teeth, I learned that the noise we were hearing were humming birds when one buzzed my face. It was a difficult night, but we were high on adrenaline and having a grand time.
All night I listened to the sound of nature worrying about my pack being devoured by night rodents and bears. We woke early to a brisk morning packing quickly in dire need of water. It was two miles down hill before we got water and breakfast. That was the last downhill until evening.
Before breakfast and water, we met the only backpacker to break the mold telling us about the water we would come to by the bottom of the hill. I wish he had warned us about the other backpackers though. We crossed three rivers that day in three different manners – through raging ice water, over a well built bridge, and across a couple of logs crisscrossing each other with a loose rope for false security. Then it got real. We had the next many hours climbing switchbacks beating off vampire house flies. Every five steps I had to stop to beat at the flies or rest my screaming hips. Each leg of the switchback, I would try to do better only stopping when my legs refused to move. We had a few trees to maneuver around that day but not as many as the previous. We also learned our lesson and filled up on water, but that wasn’t enough. I was in the sense of mind that we could do this but it was going to be tough. The youth expanded the distance between us with them looking for a camp once again as the light of the forest dimmed. Close to being out of water, we began to scan every possibility with no luck. That night the Amazons found refuge at a campground near a trailhead, but we didn’t care. There were enough flat spots for all of us, a table and benches to use, and people to beg water from. We were set. We slept only to be woken in the middle of the night by people hollering at least a mile away – “We’re here.” – over and over again until they met wither their ride in the adjacent parking lot. We slept in that morning and took our time stretching and packing. Breakfast was delayed until we refilled the water within the mile, but we weren’t afraid of dying of dehydration. The late start could have been a mistake.
As soon as we crossed the road, we entered a water drainage area where we couldn’t camp until we left it 12 miles out. The first day we hiked 9 miles. The second around 12. And now the third day, we began to feel the challenge ending with 15 miles under our belts. The hiking wasn’t bad. We got water right away and filled all the receptacles we had with us. The trail was mostly uphill but had nice areas to take breaks. But this time we didn’t’ want to take off the packs unless we needed to. Sometimes leaving them on when we needed to go pee. We met and talked to several through hikers and more experienced backpackers. They were always friendly and giving encouraging words. But we also realized the nature of backpackers as if we didn’t already have clues. At one point, we met with the girls where the trail split in two. We had talked about going to a lake, but we changed our minds when we realized how far down we would have to go and then backtrack the next day to continue on. It was at this point the girls were almost led astray. Two through hikers had told them to go down the path leading to the lake to stay on the PCT, but they themselves went on the other way, up the hill. They were deliberately told wrong. Later we met another hiker who said that the trail was downhill the rest of the way to the camp ground while we were looking at an incline from where she had been. Another told us we could get to the end in a day. Every time we stopped the trail went up. Then we had to bushwhack on narrow ledges where a missed step would send us careening down the mountain. Every few steps my polls slipped off into never never land. We hiked over rock falls. My shoes pounded down to nothing, and my feet bruised. But on we pushed knowing we could not stop until the campground. We looked forward to our beds. During this day, I began to wonder what I had gotten us into and how to get out of it without them killing me or someone else. Our camp was nestled among bushes and near a creak where the young Amazons refilled our bottles while the older cried into our hot drinks.
We got up earlier than the through hikers in the campground and headed out the next morning. It was our last full day. The energy was high because we were to cross paths with a lake where we could swim or rinse or just relax. When we came to the lake, we were looking forward to digging out our layers instead of taking off layers to get wet, and the energy dropped. We sat on a large log contemplating life and the trail. The worries grew. The trail went down around the lake and up on the other side of the ridge. We ridge walked for a while and crossed more rock fields. We climbed no more trees but several boulders. We came to the turn off to the camp early that night. The trail number showed that it was the last entrance to the campground on the trail, so we took it. Climbing over a berm, we were instantly in another land. There were downed trees everywhere. Simultaneously we started humming dueling banjos. We crossed 110 downed trees in less than two hours as we circled around the camp without even knowing it. Eventually we excitedly found our way into it. There were great clearings, large logs for sitting, and our fist fixed rock fire pit. We had special brownie mix waiting for us in our pack and a flask of whisky. We were going to celebrate our first big hike. As we sat down, we noticed candles scattered about. It took a minute to realize they were laid out in a pentagram. Then we found a broken knife buried deep in the rocks of the fire pit. An eerie feeling overcame us, but we had plenty of water and a pond with frogs nearby. We set out to enjoy our luck. That night I dreamed of being killed in my sleep by the angry Amazons. They were angry for my not delivering the relaxing fun filled hike. I wore my cat eared hat for safety. The next morning we dodged an encounter with Sasquatch. I was to be the bait to keep the others safe, but he liked my ears and left me alone.
Finally on the last day, we went down to the river. This was the only day where we hiked downhill more than we went up hill. However, the downhill climb was more like roller skating on marbles and switchbacks. The day was long just because we knew it was the last day and because of those darn rock fields. My feet throbbed with each step. When I stopped, I tried to relieve the pain in my feet without sitting down. When I sat they hurt more until we got going for a bit. I wanted it to be over. A mile from the end point, we called our ride, Korientice. I talked to my husband to empty the car because that is what she was going to pick us up in. It was the only car big enough to carry five people and four backpacks. The first thing I said to my husband was that I was done. At that point, I became done. It didn’t matter that we had another mile or so to go and a bridge to cross. It took all my energy to climb every hill we came to and cross every rock. People gave us the right of way commenting on how tired I looked. One hiker even offered me his cereal for energy. I could smell food on the people I passed too, hunger had returned. My body was done. It was then that we also learned Camazon was a true backpacker too, as she told us that the trail was downhill from here on out and she headed uphill.
At the Bridge of the Gods, though, there was some magic. All of a sudden I was uplifted, happy, excited. We were going to cross a bridge I couldn’t even begin to imagine ever being on. I was flying high over the racing river many feet below with cars rushing past us. I was afraid that I was going to lose everything through the grates. I was on cloud nine. We crossed half the bridge and had to return to get to our ride and much needed real food. I had been dreaming of fruits and veggies all day. As we were throwing our packs into the waiting car, an angel came to us and offered the nectar of the gods. Fresh picked organically grown sweet cherries. I could have eaten the entire bag if I didn’t’ have to share them with the other Amazons. That’s all I really wanted until I went inside the restaurant and smelled the fries. I ordered a salad bar and fries. This was the best meal ever.